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McDonald powers Norse to victory against Cleveland State

Christopher Decker, Sports Editor

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Who Dey flirts with a lady at the scorers table before taking the court in the mascot game at halftime of the NKU vs. Cleveland State game.

The NKU Norse beat the Cleveland State Vikings 83-75 Saturday afternoon at BB&T Arena. The Norse improve to 12-5 on the season while the Vikings fall to 5-11.

“I thought our young men came out with a lot of energy tonight,” head coach John Brannen said. “Cleveland State is one of the toughest teams to prepare for in the league. I’m excited about our guys ability to step up.”

The Norse were powered by sophomore center Drew McDonald, who scored a career high 37 points on the day. He scored 30 of those points in the first half and making four threes in the first five minutes of the game. He also earned his seventh double-double of the season, recording 10 rebounds.

“It just felt like another game,” McDonald said. “I saw the first four go in and it took off from there. I was in the zone.”

McDonald’s performance is the most points an individual NKU scorer has had since Dustin Magvine scored 30 points in 2009. 

“It’s great honestly,” McDonald said, “I didn’t even realize I had that many until someone told me. I’ve got to more years and I hope we accomplish more than me setting the single game points record. I’d trade that record for a conference championship any day of the week.”

McDonald’s first half performance carried the Norse to a 43-33 halftime lead. The Norse shot 55 percent in the half and 50 percent from the 3-point line. Cleveland State shot equally as well in the half though, shooting 50 percent from the floor and 55 percent from downtown. 

“I couldn’t believe he had 30 points in the first half,” Brannen said. “Drew and I met yesterday and talked about how he hadn’t been playing that well, by his standards. I knew he would explode and we even joked around about having a big night.” 

Brannen tried a different defense out of every TV timeout, switching to zone midway through the half and then switched to full court pressure with 6:47 left in the first half. The Norse settled on playing mostly man-to-man in the second half.

“They did some things that hurt us,” Brannen said. “Overall I didn’t think we were as locked in as we could have been. When you play that well offensively you can kind of get lulled into not being as intense defensively.”

With 15:12 left in the second half, the Vikings got within five of the Norse, but NKU would fight back and extend the lead back to 12 points. The Norse could never get ahead by more than 15 points in the final half, and let the Vikings hang around until late in the game.

The Vikings also switched to zone, which slowed down McDonald, who scored just seven points in the second half. 

“They went on a run. What I was most proud of is that we put it right back up,” Brannen said. “I didn’t like that they got back in it again.”

With 35 seconds left in the game, the Vikings cut the score to 78-71, but free throws by McDonald, Mason Faulkner, Jordan Garnett and a Vikings turnover with 15 seconds left sealed the Norse victory.  

Faulkner had another solid performance for the Norse, tying his career high in points with 16 and dishing out four assists.  

“It’s confidence,” Faulkner said. “My teammates are giving me the ball and I’m hitting shots.” 

Garnett finished with nine points while Carson Williams followed with eight points and eight rebounds, including a couple of thunderous dunks. 

The Norse will now begin preparation for a road game at second place Green Bay, who is 3-0 in Horizon League play and 9-6 overall. The game is on Tuesday Jan. 10 at 8 p.m..  

“We aren’t afraid of anybody,” Faulkner said. “We have to play NKU basketball.”

Kids Day

It was Kids Day at at BB&T Arena. The first 500 kids in the building received an NKU Norse backpack and were treated to a mascot basketball game at halftime featuring Victor E. Viking, Mr. Redlegs, Rosie Red, and several other area mascots.

The kids in attendance also were able to come down to the court after the game to get autographs from the team and take shots on the court.  

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McDonald powers Norse to victory against Cleveland State